Friends, I found my way to the following post via a fellow blogger's site. The gentleman that wrote this speaks with force and, what I consider to be, perfect clarity on this issue. He is a far better writer than me, as are most people, so please read this.
As a married, heterosexual man, I am not usually viewed as the stereotypical advocate for gay marriage. However, to my mind this is one of the most basic civil liberties issues of our time. All consenting adults should be able to exercise free and equal rights to marry the partner of their choice, regardless of sexual orientation. Any limitation on this right is an unjust infringement on the moral and religious liberty of a significant portion of the population, and it would continue to impose enormous emotional and financial harm on many citizens of this country. I consider opposition to legal and equal gay marriage to be antithetical to my values and to the values on which the United States was built.
At a fundamental level, the Bill of Rights is based on the proposition that Americans should be free from government restriction until and unless their freedom imposes on the freedom of another. While gay marriage may offend the sensibilities of some individuals, it does nothing to limit anyone else’s freedom. In a world with gay marriage, homophobes retain the right to criticize homosexuality and to speak out against gay marriages. No individual religious institution is under any obligation to perform gay marriages. However, just as those who believe that marriage must be sanctified by Jesus Christ lack the ability to prohibit civil, Jewish, Buddhist, or interfaith marriages from having full legal standing, those who believe that marriage must be between a man and a woman should lack the ability to prohibit gay marriages. No mainstream legislator would ever put the right of Hindus to practice their religion up to a referendum. Gay people’s rights ought to be equally sacrosanct. As a Unitarian Universalist (UU), my faith believes in equal marriage, and I do not believe adherents to any other religion possess the legal or moral right to restrict the freedom of religious practice of UUs. Allowing gay marriage restricts no one's freedom of religion. Prohibiting it is an infringement on freedom of religion.
I believe that restricting gay marriage is an example of discrimination based on someone's gender. It prohibits adults from marrying other adults solely based on the other's sex, which appears to me to be a clear violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution.
I have heard the argument that there is a public policy interest in ensuring that marriages can create offspring. Even if we were to ignore adoption and surrogacy, there is no prohibition against marriage by the infertile, and there is no government imposed divorce for those who have vasectomies or go through menopause. In fact, senior citizens justifiably have the same marriage rights as those who are younger. Many straight people go into a marriage with no intention of ever procreating. They are just as deserving of the right to be married as those who intentionally raise large families. Gays are no less deserving of marriage than anyone else who is unable or unwilling to have children. Oh, and I am not willing to ignore adoption or surrogacy; gays are as capable of having children inside or outside of matrimony as any other adult human being.
Gay marriage is legal in several other countries, including Canada, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Society has not collapsed as a result. If anything, the licentious behavior for which The Netherlands is famous is heterosexual, not homosexual. In the United States, where divorce rates, STDs, domestic violence, and adultery run rampant, it seems ridiculous to draw a line in the sand at stopping gay marriage in order to preserve the moral order. The institution of marriage appears not to be treated as sacred now; I don't understand why gays would (or could) be poorer custodians of the institution that we straights have been. While I know that many people believe that Massachusetts, which is the one state in which (due to judicial not electoral action) gay marriage is legal, is politically and socially extreme, the facts don't suggest a widespread problem with unstable family situations. In 2004, which was the latest year for which I was able to find data, Massachusetts possessed the lowest divorce rate of any state (with the locality of the District of Columbia being the only place to do better). This chart is easy to load and read, but you can also get the source data from the last page of this Census report. Massachusetts's politics have not noticeably shifted since gay marriage became legal, and I have yet to see any social degradation as a result.
Some opponents of gay marriage like to claim that legalizing gay marriage will encourage more people to become gay. Even assuming there were a shred of evidence to prove it, and ignoring the fact that there are a substantial number of people who managed to figure out that they are gay without government support, the government has no right to attempt to dictate the sexual orientation of its citizens. I could believe that people might be more open about being gay in a community where gays were treated equally, although I don't have evidence to support that either, but I do not think the government has a legitimate public policy interest in causing people to suppress their sexual orientation or in arguing that an entire group of citizens are less deserving of legal rights or legal protection. In addition, creating a world in which more people pretend to be straight appears to me to be a poor recipe for maximizing the stability and healthiness of any straight relationship, much less a marriage.
Many people disapprove of gay marriage, but many people also disapprove of interracial marriage, interfaith marriage, and inter-socio-economic class marriage, and frankly many people make judgments that individual people they know show bad taste in whom they choose to marry. My next door neighbor's opinion on Alex (if he had one) was fundamentally irrelevant to our decision to marry. Had Alex and I been of the same gender, I see no reason why his opinion would have carried more weight. Had we been from the same faith tradition, I see no reason why his opinion would (much less could) have carried less weight.
I have heard some argue that the "moderate" position is to advocate for civil unions. They claim that advocates of gay marriage are unwilling to "compromise." While they are technically correct, I find it absurd that civil unions are perceived as an acceptable compromise. Civil unions are not the same as marriage by definition. There are complex federal and state-by-state distinctions around the legal and financial rights guaranteed to married couples. In a world in which neither the federal government nor any state government is required to recognize civil unions from other locations, there is no way to claim that granting someone a civil union in one state is the same as allowing them the nationally protected rights provided by marriage. Even if civil unions were recognized and respected across the nation, it would still be an arbitrary barrier imposed for no reason. “Separate but equal” has never worked in this country, and anything less than full equality is discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The more the distinction is eroded between marriage and civil commitment, the more obvious it becomes that a prohibition against gay marriage is arbitrary.
Many thanks to Super Des for the link, to Alex Elliot for allowing me to re-post this cogent and well-written piece, and to her husband for writing it.